If the Cambridge Audio Azur 551R were a bells-and-whistles machine like so many other current A/V receivers, its human-factors design would be lack-luster. But it’s not, and since comparatively little user interaction is required, it proved pleasant and, for the most part, easy to use. The handsome remote control, a solid-seeming brushed-aluminum wand, has just 22 keys, plus the usual 4-way/enter cursor pad. Bright, white-on-black key lettering makes function identification possible, if not easy, at least in decent light, and infrared range and spread seemed very good.
The lack of any in-use onscreen displays or pop-ups (except for picture adjustments over processed/ scaled inputs), something I usually cry foul over, did not seem particularly onerous in the Cambridge’s case. The only surround-mode choices are the Dolby and DTS standards (plus three generic music modes), and left to its own devices, the receiver will usually select the most appropriate mode automatically, so there’s not a great deal for the user to do beyond volume adjustment and source selection.
That said, the 551R’s front-panel display is too small and lacking in data to be of much use. With or without video processing engaged, the 551R could also be quite slow to switch between active HDMI inputs, up to a maximum of about 11 seconds before both picture and sound returned — not great, but hardly the worst I’ve experienced. One omission I did feel was that of easy-access channel-level adjustments. Basically, there aren’t any: You need to return to the setup menu and change levels on the calibration page.
The final analysis here is pretty simple. If you like to tinker, or demand up-to-the-minute tech gewgaws like Bluetooth or AirPlay (or built-in streaming audio), you’re probably a hobbyist, and the Cambridge Audio Azur 551R is not your A/V receiver. If, on the other hand, you rarely want to do more than load a disc or tune a station and then sit back and enjoy, then the Cambridge very well might be your A/V receiver.
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